In Japan, the term yaoi continues to refer mainly to parody dōjinshi; among Western fans, however, yaoi is used as a generic term for female-oriented manga, anime, dating sims, novels and fan fiction works featuring idealized gay male relationships.The genre has spread beyond Japan, and both translated and original yaoi works are now available in many countries and languages.Material classified as yaoi typically depicts gay relationships between male characters and may include homoerotic content.Although the yaoi genre is also called Boys' Love (commonly abbreviated as BL), the characters may be of any age above puberty, including adults.The genre currently known as Boy's Love, BL, or yaoi derives from two sources.
In the 1980s, the genre was presented in an anime format for the first time, including the works Patalliro!
The terms yaoi and shōnen-ai are sometimes used by Western fans to differentiate between two variants of the genre.
In this case, yaoi is used to describe titles that primarily feature sexually explicit themes and sex scenes, while shōnen-ai is used to describe titles that focus primarily on romance and omit explicit sexual content, although sexual acts may be implied.
Characteristics of shōnen-ai include exoticism, often taking place in Europe, Jeffrey Angles particularly notes Moto Hagio's The Heart of Thomas (1974) and Keiko Takemiya's Kaze to Ki no Uta (1976–1984) as being groundbreaking, noting their portrayal of intense friendship between males, including jealousy and desire.
The word was originally used to describe an author's distinctive style, for example, the styles of Yukio Mishima and Jun'ichirō Tanizaki.